The Myth of the Different War

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By Larry Johnson

George W. Bush may have been a mediocre student in college, but he clearly mastered Orwell’s works, especially 1984 and Animal Farm.  How else to explain his reliance on repeating catch phrases that are misleading and, at times, outright false, while trying to shape and mold American public opinion to support his policies?

Previously Bush juxtaposed the phrase "9-11" with Saddam and convinced a majority of Americans that Hussein was somehow involved in the attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center towers.  Even though there was no truth to the charge, the President, even to this day, continues to use the 9-11 attack to justify the war in Iraq.

Now we are confronted with a new phrase,"the war on terror is a different kind of war and must be fought outside the normal conventions of war".  This rational is being offered up to the American people by the President, along with Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and other Republican mouthpieces to justify violations of habeas corpus, torture and wiretaps outside the FISA process. 

So, how is this war different?


Let’s start with casualties.  While terrorism is a threat it does not begin to compare with real war.  Fewer than 10,000 people have died in that last four years from international terrorist attacks.  During the same period of time in World War Two more than 52 million people perished.  How about the Korean war?  More than 55,000 UN troops died there during a four year period.  North Korean and Chinese losses were  much higher. 

So, let me see if I have this logic straight–we justify violating the conventions of war in order to fight an uncoventional threat that has not come close to killing the number of people who died in the so-called conventional wars?

Well, we must admit that the enemy is sneaky and does not congregate in mass formations like conventional armies.  That is true.  But this fact calls into question the President’s claim that in contrast to the Clinton Administration, who relied upon law enforcement and intelligence tools, he is going to use military power to fight the terrorists.  Sounds great on a campaign stop, but the reality is quite different.

Since Donald Rumsfeld authorized the U.S. military in January of 2003 to "find, fix, and finish" Al Qaeda and other extremist Islamic groups around the world, the U.S. military has not bagged a single major target.  Instead, the key terrorist leaders, such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who have been captured or killed were nabbed through intelligence and law enforcement efforts.  Our military is too big, too bulky, and too slow to effectively attack and destroy the existing terrorist networks around the world.  The terrorists do not offer "good" military targets, i.e. well organized commands with massive infrastructure.  They operate in cells and fully integrate themselves with civilian populations.  As we saw with the destruction of Fallujah, even wiping out a city does not wipe out terrorism.

President Bush is using fear to scare Americans into looking the other way as he tries to justify his declaration of an imperial Presidency entitled to do whatever he wants as long as he can say, "I’m protecting Americans from terrorism".  If we continue to allow our fear of terrorism to be used as an excuse for torture, unconstitutional imprisonment, and domestic spying without judicial review, we are on the precipice of the totalitarian world feared by George Orwell and offered to us by the amiable George W. Bush.

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4 Responses to The Myth of the Different War

  1. nanook says:

    The precipice has already been crossed.
    Re-reading the history of our Constitution today, a point that struck me was the fragility of our country after the Revolutionary war and the real threats to the young nation. Yet the framers believed to form a more just union and to prevent tyranny of the executive that it was necessary to amend the Constitution and enshrine the Bill of Rights. The 4th amendment could not be more clear in its purpose.
    George Bush has just admitted that he has authorized the warantless spying on American citizens to ostensibly protect the citizens.
    First, it seems that he has violated the Constitution and lawful Congressional statute. Second, tyranny of the executive has always been justified under the rubric of national security and citizen safety.
    Are we at a watershed moment in the history of the republic?

  2. Eric says:

    Larry, I am glad you think Mr. Bush is “amiable”; my word describing him begins with “a” and ends with “e”, also, and is always preceded by the word “utter”.
    Since the failure to accomplish anything at Tora Bora, Afghanstan, in Nov/Dec 2001, the War on Terra has devolved into a police/intelligence operation. At Tora Bora, a decisive result militarily, if it could have been achieved at all(and I think it could have), would have required a brigade or less of light infantry. The War on Terra is hardly of Stalingrad or Kursk magnitude, although Mr. Bush attempts to fill our kool-aid goblets with that vintage at every opportunity.
    In the time that Mr. Bush has diddled with the WOT and his Iraq Clown Show, the US was in and out of WWII, and the German and Japanese malefactors were well on their way to the gallows.
    The past four years have been surreal.
    The thing that amazes me most, I guess, is that most Americans do not realize how many times in the last 5000 years, 2000+ innocent civilians have died in a day, at the hand of zealots or war mongers.
    We are, as a nation, I think, “exceptional”, in the sense of being historically ignorant.

  3. BadTux says:

    Eric, you are assuming that Americans would view those 2000+ civilians as being human beings. I do not believe they would. To most Americans, anybody who is outside the border of the United States and not a citizen of the United States is untermenshen, other, not truly human, just flat two-dimensional caricatures on a television screen. They aren’t HUMAN, not in any way that the typical American understands “human” as being (i.e., as American). Everything on television and radio, everything they’ve seen and heard and know in their lives, supports this notion of “other” as “untermenschen”, drawing on the most primitive of instincts of the naked ape that was our forefathers — i.e., that “other” is to be feared and hated and hooted at and feces flung at. Like two bands of howler monkeys hooting and howling and screeching to mark off their territory against the “enemy” (anybody who isn’t part of the band of howler monkeys), that same base instinct of the American public is being very carefully massaged by the masters of message…
    Why do you think Americans care more about 2100 dead American GI’s than about 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians? It’s because they really don’t view those Iraqi civilians as human, even if they claim to do so, even the most liberal of Americans…
    – Badtux the Orwellian Cynic

  4. O de Potomac says:

    Thanks especially for this post. Yourt fan, O

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